Plight of Kashmiri Prisoners

Posted: November 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

kashmiri-prioners

V.R. Krishna Iyer (J) has rightly observed : “In our world prisons are still laboratories of torture, warehouses in which human commodities are sadistically kept and where spectrums of inmates range from drift-wood juveniles to heroic dissenters.

It is established that conviction for a crime does not reduce the person into a non-person, so he is entitled to all the rights, which are generally available to the non-prisoner. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that he is not entitled for any absolute right, which is available to a non-prisoner citizen but subject to some legal restrictions. The Supreme Court of United States as well as the Indian Supreme Court has  held that prisoner is a human being, a natural person and also a legal person. Being a prisoner he does not cease to be a human being, natural person or legal person. Conviction for a crime does not reduce the person into a non person, The courts which send offenders into prison, have an onerous duty to ensure that during detention, detenues have freedom from torture.  William Black has said “Prisons are built with stones of Law”. So, when human rights are harassed behind the bars, constitutional justice comes forward to uphold the law.The life of an offender cannot be jeopardized by indulging in illegal physical torture by the jail authorities.

In  Sanjay Sun v Delhi Administration, AIR 1988 SC 414, The Supreme Court was not happy with the attitude of prison authority and suggested that the prison authorities should change their attitudes towards prisoners and protect their human rights for the sake of humanity.

The Article 5 of the UDHR, states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. There are words that crop up again. They mean severe beatings on the body and the soles of the feet with rubber hoses and truncheons, electronic shocks being run through the genitals and tongue, near-downing, hanging arms and legs, cigarette bums over the body, sleep deprivation or subjection to a high pitched noise and much more.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed that “right to life is one of the basic human rights. Even when lodged in jail, he continues to enjoy all his fundamental rights including the right to life guaranteed to him under the Constitution. On being convicted of crime and deprived of their liberty in accordance with the procedure established by law, prisoners shall retain the residue of the constitutional rights. This right continues to be available to prisoners and those rights cannot be defeated by pleading the old and archaic defence of immunity in respect of sovereign acts which have been rejected several times by the Supreme Court”. State is liable for the death of undertrial who continues to enjoy all fundamental rights including right to life.

Thousands of Kashmiri prisoners languish in jails across many parts of India. youth are taken away as prisoners and lodged in various prisons throughout India. Kashmiri political prisoners, most of them according to family members have been implicated in false cases are presently in the jails of Rajasthan, Varanasi, Bengaluru, Gujarat and other jails of India.

Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights (JKCHR) submitted a document to Secretary General UN on the plight of Kashmiri prisoners held in Tihar jail New Delhi as UN General Assembly Document titled A/HRC/36/NGO/52 at the 36th session of Human Rights Council,

The document submitted under agenda item 3 of the 36th session of the Council which started its session in Geneva, pointed out that there are 19 Kashmiris have been serving life imprisonment in Tihar jail, New Delhi.

Mohammad Hussain Fazili who was  released in February 2017,after spending 12 years in jail, reported that they are forced to urinate in each other’s mouth.

Fazili said to media that “We were forced to drink urine and eat human waste along with bread. Rats were put in their trousers. As if it was not enough, he said, pigs were let loose to lick their mouth and face. At the same time, cops used to push water and bread into our mouth. We thought since we were Kashmiris and Muslims, it was the only reason for facing such torture.

Recently, The Joint Resistance Leadership had approached the JKSHR commission with a petition maintaining that the rights of Kashmiri prisoners were being violated in jails. The petition filed before the commission on November 3, this year, had sought instructions to restore the dignity of Kashmiri political prisoners languishing in different prisons.

In New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, the Kashmiri inmates are being even deprived of basic rights to survive and no medical treatment is being provided to them, nor are they being allowed to meet their kith and kin, the petition said. It said that Kathua Jail in Jammu had become a torture centre where Kashmiri inmates are deprived of human contact for many months. This amounts to punishment beyond prison time and it is inhuman, it added

According to Media Reports, On the night of November 21, a team of Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) allegedly beat up at least 18 inmates of Tihar Jail’s High Risk wards ‘C’ and ‘F’. The inmates sustained severe injuries. Many of the injured prisoners were Kashmiris serving detention in Tihar Jail, among them Shahid Yousuf, son of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.

On 28th of Novemeber Advocate Syed Mujtaba , A Renowned Human Rights Defender on behalf of President lawyers club president Adv Babar Qadri , lodged the complaint in NHRC new delhi against the jail authorities of Tihar, the petitioners expressed serious concern about the miserable and inhuman treatmentmeted out to Kashmiri prisoners in tihar. In the petition , safety and security, proper health care was demanded to be ensured.

Therefore, the existing legal structure of the prisons administration has to be changed, Criminal law should be amended, a new Prisons Act should be enacted and all Jail Manuals need to be Reviewed and Revised. Most importantly Indian Judiciary must continue to play its constructive and active role in prison justice.

Author is A Human Rights defender from Kashmir and can be mailed at jaan.aalam@gmail.com

http://www.countercurrents.org/2017/11/29/plight-of-kashmiri-prisoners/

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 APDP maintains that 8,000 people have disappeared in the decades-old conflict [Shuuaib Masoodi/Al Jazeera]
APDP maintains that 8,000 people have disappeared in the decades-old conflict [Shuuaib Masoodi/Al Jazeera]

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The state-run human rights commission has told the government in Kashmir to investigate at least 2,080 unmarked mass graves discovered in border areas of the restive region.

The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a human rights group in Kashmir, told the commission there were 3,844 unmarked graves – 2,717 in Poonch and 1,127 in Rajouri, twin districts in the region that lie along Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed territory between Indiaand Pakistan.

In response, the commission acknowledged the presence of 2,080 unmarked graves and asked the government for a comprehensive investigation to be completed in six months, including DNA tests of the bodies to compare it with family members of the disappeared.

In 2011, the commission directed the government to investigate the mass graves. At the time, a special team from the commission said 2,730 unidentified bodies were buried in 38 sites across northern Kashmir.

“The commission has no hesitation to issue the same directions, which were already issued in the case,” the recent order said.

Thousands disappeared

APDP maintains 8,000 people have disappeared in the decades-old conflict, and accuses government forces of staging gun battles to cover up killings.

The association welcomed the commission’s latest demand to investigate mass graves in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.

“It is an acknowledgement from the institution that is run by the government. It provides further legal remedies for the family members of missing,” Khurram Parvez from APDP told Al Jazeera.

“We have been demanding that there be an independent commission to do a credible probe on the mass graves.”

Parvez said the probe might give an “answer” to families of disappeared who do not know whether their relatives are dead or alive.

“We have done a study of 53 cases for a report where the bodies were exhumed from unknown graves. It was found that 49 bodies in the graves were of civilians and one was a local militant, three bodies were unknown. These people were dubbed as foreign militants by the government,” Parvez said.

Since 2011, instead of complying with directions from the human rights commission, the government continues to avoid such an investigation on the pretext it would lead to a “law and order problem” in Kashmir, APDP said in a statement.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in July 2008 and called on India’s government ensure independent and impartial investigations into all mass graves, APDP said.

Officials contacted by Al Jazeera declined to comment on Friday.

The state government has said most of the missing were likely Kashmiri youths who crossed into Pakistan for weapons training. Those comments have been dismissed by family members of the disappeared.

‘Emotional closure’

Tahira Begum, 39, from Baramulla whose husband disappeared in 2002, said if the government investigates the graves it would provide “emotional closure” to family members.

“We want to know whether our family members are buried in these graves. At least, we will get an address to mourn,” she told Al Jazeera.

Tahira said she had to leave her three sons in an orphanage after her husband disappeared.

“My kids would run from school and ask me where their father is. For years, I told them he has gone for work outside. But as time passed, I couldn’t lie to them any more.”

Her husband disappeared after leaving home for work and never returned. “I went everywhere to look for him but failed. I just want an answer – what happened to him,” she said.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.

Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown. India maintains about 500,000 soldiers in the territory.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and most support rebels against Indian rule despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight the armed rebellion.

India has accused Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, allegations that Pakistan denies.

Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian security forces in recent years, and public opposition to Indian rule is now principally expressed through street protests.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/india-ordered-probe-3800-mass-graves-kashmir-l

Students March in Protest Against NIA Summons to Kashmir University Scholar

J

SRINAGAR: Amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, hundreds of students today marched on the campus and later staged a protest demonstration against the summoning of a University of Kashmir scholar by the National Investigations Agency in ‘terror funding’ case.

Aala Fazili, a resident of Srinagar’s Humhama locality who is pursuing PhD in Pharmacy from the Varsity, has been detained by the NIA after he appeared for questioning yesterday in connection with the case, in which separatists, a prominent businessman and a photojournalist have been arrested.

Carrying banners depicting messages of solidarity with Aala, dozens of agitated students marched on the campus and later assembled outside the Humanities Block where they shouted anti-India, anti-NIA slogans and pro-freedom slogans.

“India is using NIA as a new weapon of war to intimidate and silence those who are speaking against the brutalities of forces. Such tactics have not worked in past and they will not work now,” a student, who didn’t want to be named, said.

The protest demonstration was organised by the Kashmir University Students Union, “India can’t cow down students. If Aala is not released immediately, KUSU will organise state wide protests and government will be responsible for the outcome,” a report quoted KUSU spokesperson as saying.

The NIA has arrested middle-rung Hurriyat leaders including Altaf Shah, the son-in-law of veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, Ayaz Akbar, Geelani’s spokesman, Shahid-ul-Islam, the political advisor of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, among other in the case which was registered on May 30.

Police sources said some of the students leaders linked to the two unions running in the Varsity, including the one with links to a legislator from north Kashmir, have also been questioned in connection with “stone pelting incidents” during 2016 unrest and more students will be questioned.

According to NIA, some prominent separatists, including unidentified Hurriyat members, have been accused of collusion with Hizbul Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other outfits for “raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir”.

The Hurriyat has rubbished the charges, alleging that the agency was being “used by New Delhi” to “defame the genuine political struggle” of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

(Cover Photograph: Representational image courtesy Greater Kashmir)

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/3/11838/Students-March-in-Protest-Against-NIA-Summons-to-Kashmir-University-Scho

Raped women in Kashmir have experienced transmutation of suffering — from “victims” to “survivors” to “martyrs” to the cause. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice, they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget. Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets, Freny Manecksha, the author Of Behold, I Shine, tells Riyaz Wani
me (2)Raped women in  have experienced transmutation of suffering — from “victims” to “survivors” to “martyrs” to the cause. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice, they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget. Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets, Freny Manecksha, the author Of Behold, I Shine, tells Riyaz Wani

Edited Excerpts from the  •

How do you see the role of women in the resistance and the struggle for Azadi? Has acknowledgment of their contribution been largely rhetorical? What is your book’s aim?

Among the first persons that I met in  was Parveena Ahangar and I learnt of the silent sit-ins at Pratap Chowk every month by men and women demanding state accountability for enforced disappearances. It was my first introduction to the very important role of memorialisation and the way women in  have transmuted their suffering and turned it into a tool against the state’s consistent bid to erase history. This transmutation of suffering into resistance is manifested in many ways, not just by members of the Association of Parents for Disappeared Persons (both groups the one led by Parveena Ahangar and also the one led by Parvez Imroze) but also those women whose husbands/sons have suffered custodial deaths, those who suffered sexual violence at the hands of policemen or militarised personnel and so on. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice that is almost like a “divine mission” they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget.

Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets. From Zamrud Habib I learnt of their role in the nineties when they would hurl kangris near security camps and protest when the young boys were taken away and of the numerous ways they provided support. In fact the women are still out there. Besides the image of the young college girl giving the finger to the armed forces that went viral, there, are also powerful accounts of women who lay down on the streets in 2016, in an attempt to block the path of Surakshaks (armoured vehicles) from carting away the boys. It was partly to record the role of these “unsung” proponents of azadi that I wrote the book.

In the media and the political space, the conflict in  has largely been articulated by the men. Does women’s articulation nuance this narrative? Does Azadi mean the same thing to Kashmiri women too?

Women’s accounts certainly nuance the narratives. They bring in all the variations and types of violence that has been inflicted on society by occupation and how it is then compounded by patriarchal norms. It is the women journalists and writers who have spoken about the horrific impact of violence on children. They have explored the innumerable ways people’s privacy and dignity is deliberately violated with crackdowns and search operations. I just read an account of how soldiers had once deliberately hung bras and panties of a young woman in the room they searched because she had been outspoken.

And, I am now hearing accounts of the huge surveillance in border towns where not only do you have huge towering checkposts but men with power binoculars. I learnt how toilets were swiftly constructed inside the homes in the nineties because women did not dare to go outside for nature’s call unless it was really dark. In many parts of  they are now employing drones.

Women’s voices articulate all these concerns and in addition they also speak out against the way society reacted to victims of sexual violence, of how widows and half widows were treated. Some young women are now speaking of intersectionality_ of how one must talk about the oppression of an occupation but the necessity as well to also counter oppression of patriarchy. I guess it is the women who are trying to expand the concept of azadi, of what freedom means even as there are some radical forces that are seeking to lay down diktats.

Why in your opinion is national media so indifferent to the complexities of the situation in  and determined to project everything in black and white?

When I was researching for the book I found that the conflict in the nineties was covered by the nationalist media with some amount of sensitivity and sense of balance, or at least compared to the coverage today. I am not sure how and when the complete reversal of truth came about but it probably has to do with the increasing hardening of the state, the current geo political climate and Islamophobia. Over the past few years the electronic media has completely demonized the Kashmiris and is also manufacturing so many myths and fiction. Imagine talking about the love lives of militants! And, not based on any real recordings of people. In a sense this kind of crazy coverage and criminalising people is being extended to all forms of dissent even in .

In past also, you have written extensively about the women in , their trialsand tribulations. For example, you have reported on the mass  in Kunan Poshpora and in your conversations with the people you have noticed that they no longer talk about the raped women in terms of stigma but see them as martyrs to the cause. This is such a leap of faith in a conservative patriarchal society.

I was in  and attended the first hearing in court in 2013 when the asking for opening of the probe in the Kunan-Poshpora case was admitted and I have been following the case ever since. The trajectory from victims to resistance fighters is indeed remarkable. What is equally significant is that this was facilitated by a new generation of young women and the legal team that wants to emphasise that a crime never dies and must not be forgotten. The case is now stuck in the  but there have been some significant outcomes of the struggle for justice. The book “Do you remember Kunan-Poshpora?” is an outcome and it lays bare the ways the state sought to cover up the case — the mysterious ways early medico legal reports by the Block Medical Officer went missing, the bold statements of former District Commissioner S M Yasin and so on. I think this really shows the transmutation of suffering. Of how “victims” can forcibly prove they are “survivors” and yes then “martyrs” to the cause.

Behold I Shine Cover final (LRS) (2)Since you have travelled across the Valley to interact with the women and child victims of the ongoing conflict, what sense did you get of the suffering in the Valley. How endemic is it?

I returned to the Valley earlier this year after the 2016 uprising. I am just so overwhelmed by the horrendous violence that is almost endemic. How does one justify the deliberate targeting of protesting youths with pellet guns? In the month of August alone this year, there are at least 35 youths who have received serious pellet injuries. A senior eye surgeon speaking to the press told of how 16-year-old Sahil Hamid, son of a labourer, in Shopian received perforations through and through in the eyes leaving him totally blind. Is this standard operating procedure? In Kellar a 13-year-old received injuries. Ellen Barry former correspondent of the New York Times wrote last year of “an epidemic of dead eyes.” That epidemic is still raging. Just now I am reading about Shahid Mir, 19, of Handwara whose body with horrendous wounds and a scarred face was handed to his shocked parents. The army claims he was killed and he was a militant, his parents point out he was a student who was picked up by an army convoy. Such horrendous violence is unconscionable.

http://www.tehelka.com/2017/09/women-play-crucial-role-in-jk-struggle/

NEWS

Srinagar: Independent MLA Engineer Rasheed while condemning the attack on Amarnath Pilgrims said that Kashmiris don’t need lesions on Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri ethos) from those who kill Muslims in the name of cow.

Rasheed, who heads the Awami Itihaad Party while addressing a function in Hadwara said, “Kashmiris don’t need lessons of non violence and Kashmiryat from those who have martyred one lakh Kashmiris during last 27 years.”

He added, “Believing in religious harmony is in our genes. Every Kashmiri condemns the brutal act and being themselves the victims of violence, they can feel the pain of the bereaved families far better than those calling Kashmiris radicals and Wahabis from their TV studios and cozy rooms.”

He stressed that people who are killing Muslims in the name of the cow, should not ask Kashmiris to condemn the attack.

“Those killing Muslims in the name of cows should not give sermons to Kashmiris and ask them to condemn the attack.  May one ask what Kashmiris can do as nothing is in their hands. From an ordinary police cop to Indian Prime Minister, nobody cares about them and hurts them on and off,” Rasheed said.

Rasheed also pointed out if lakhs of troopers have been deployed to protect Yatris, how did the attack take place.

“How can the Government run away from the responsibility of its failure to achieve the goal of protecting Yatris,” Rasheed asked.

The independent lawmaker said that there are dozens of examples when Kashmiris have helped Amarnath pilgrims and have great respect for the Yatra.

He however questioned that ‘fanatics’ need to answer why the Yatra was politicised by ‘forcing’ Yatris to hoist the tri-colour in Pahalgam.

“Why is Yatra also being politicized and who forced Yatries to hoist a tri-color at Pahalgam during their way to Yatra despite knowing that the atmosphere is charged and completely against in Indian state,” Rasheed accused.

http://freepresskashmir.com/2017/07/11/kashmiris-dont-need-lessons-on-kashmiriyat-from-people-who-kill-in-the-name-of-cow/

Kashmir art

These are pictures of loss of childhood and innocence. They speak about a violent world outside shuttered homes. They reveal the terrors of the present and the fears for the future.

The colours are vivid. Red dominates, in blood and fire. Black is an ascendant colour, clouding the skies and scorching the earth. It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

The artwork is by schoolchildren in Indian-administered Kashmir, home to one of the world’s most protracted conflicts. These days, they mostly depict childhoods ruined by the violence of adults.

The meadows, streams, orchards and mountains that make their home “heaven on earth”, as a Mughal emperor once exulted, is missing in much of their work. Stone-throwing protesters, gun-toting troops, burning schools, rubble-littered streets, gunfights and killings are some of the anxious, recurring themes on the canvas.

Last summer was one of the bloodiest in the region for years. Following the killing of influential militant Burhan Wani by Indian forces in July, more than 100 civilians died in clashes with security forces during a four-month-long lockdown in the Muslim dominated-valley.

Security forces fired metal pellets from shotguns into protesting crowds, leaving many blinded. More than 1,200 children below the age of 15 were among some 9,000 people injured in the protests. Most of them, according to reports, were “young, [and] were either blinded completely or lost their vision in one eye”.

As violence spread on the street, schools shut. Children stayed indoors for months, drowning in the noise of TV news. At other times, they read and drew. They missed their friends and cricket games. Teachers gave lessons at home, and parents invigilated during home exams. One school even held an exam in a small indoor stadium.

Media caption“I would hide in a corner of my house’ (Video production: Shalu Yadav and Neha Sharma)
Kashmir art
Kashmir art
Kashmir art

When the schools reopened in the winter, teachers found many of the students irate, nervous and uncertain. They were children of government workers, businessmen, doctors, engineers, bankers and farmers.

They came looking “pale, like zombies”, the principal of a leading school told me.

They cried and hugged each other. Having spent months cooped up in their homes in near-captivity, they asked their teachers why they had closed the school. Some of them behaved strangely. They screamed without any reason, banged the tables and broke furniture. Counsellors were called in to calm them down.

“There was anger, a lot of anger,” the principal said.

Then, some 300 of them went to a school hall and sat down with paper and pastels. And they drew furiously.

“That’s all they did on the first day. They drew what they wanted. They didn’t utter a word. It was all very cathartic.”

‘I cannot see the world again’

The children drew mostly in pastel and pencil. Many wrote over their pictures, using speech bubbles, headlines and sentences.

In many of their pictures, the valley is on fire, and streets are littered with the black detritus of rioting against an incongruent backdrop of a blazing sun and birds in the skies.

Then there are young faces scarred and eyes blinded by pellets. It is a recurring, heart-wrenching theme.

“I cannot see the world again and cannot see my friends again. I am blind,” says the subject of one such haunting image.

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies, as a poet wrote, but in Kashmir, children have lived in the shadow of death for as long as one can remember. There are bodies lying on the street, and there are people on fire in the paintings.

“These are the mountains of Kashmir. And here’s a school for kids. On the left are army men and opposite them are stone-throwing protesters who are demanding freedom,” said a schoolboy in Anantnag, explaining his drawing.

Kashmir art
Kashmir art
Kashmir art

“When protesters throw stones at the army, the army opens fire at them. In the crossfire, a school kid dies and his friend is left alone.”

The other recurring theme – and nightmare – is the burning down of schools. There’s a powerful picture of children trapped in a school on fire, screaming, “help us, help us. Save our school, save us, save our future”.

Others are angrier and more political.

There are drawings with pro-freedom graffiti, and signposts which say Save our Kashmir in pastels. Others extol Burhan Wani, and resonate with anti-India slogans. There are maps of Kashmir oozing red.

In another village in southern Kashmir, a prominent artist found children drawing Indian flags fluttering on top of their houses.

Rival neighbours

A scowling face of a man split into two is a metaphor for the bitter and festering rivalry between India and Pakistan, and the tragedy of a land sandwiched between the rival neighbours.

There’s a heart-breaking pencil drawing of a mother waiting for her son. The children also vent their frustration over the shutdown of internet and mobile phone services during the protests.

Five years ago, Australian art therapist Dena Lawrence conducted some art lessons with young people in the valley. She found black was the predominant colour in their paintings, and most of them reflected “anger, rage and depression”.

Kashmiri artist Masood Hussain, who has been judging art competitions for children aged four to 16 for the past four decades, says their subjects have changed.

“They have gone from the serene to the violent,” he tells me. “They draw red skies, red mountains, lakes, flowers and houses on fire. They draw guns and tanks, fire-fights and people dying on the street.”

Arshad Husain, a Srinagar-based psychiatrist, says the artwork of the children in the valley betrays their collective trauma.

Kashmir art
Kashmir art

“We think children are too young to understand. That’s not true. They absorb and assimilate everything around them. They express it in their own way,” he says.

“Mind you, most of this artwork is coming from children who stayed at home. Imagine the children on the streets who are closer to the violence.”

It is all reminiscent of children’s art inspired by 9/11: weeping children, the twin towers on fire and being yanked off the ground by Osama Bin Laden against a blood-red skyline, a scarred girl wearing an I Love New York T-shirt.

Kashmir art

In Kashmir, where fairy tales quickly turn into nightmares, hope is not extinguished yet.

Let our future be bright, make us educated, don’t make this crisis a reason for darkness, pleads a girl in a drawing. It’s never too late.

Illustrations gathered from children in Indian-administered Kashmir

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39801538?ocid=wsnews.chat-apps.in-app-msg.whatsapp.trial.link1_.auin

NEW DELHI: When there is a vacuum, even a tentative effort to fill it is welcome. At least in theory and in the abstract. But when it is applied to volatile Kashmir, where the students of schools are now leading the protests across the Valley, and local youth-turned-militants are openly appearing to give four gun salutes to slain colleagues the little is so insignificant that it can do more harm than good in immediate terms. As if it fails, as it will without sufficient nerve and strategy, it will close even the tiny option that is available at this present juncture.

2017 has changed the nature of protests in Kashmir with now the separatists barely being heard from, except for the odd statement. Till 2016, despite the deep provocation of pellet guns that killed and maimed young people all across, the Hurriyat leaders were still able to retain control over the protests with their strike calls, and protest calls being heeded. But they sensed they were losing control, and as some of them told this writer, “we have no choice but to follow the mass sentiment and keep calling for strikes, as if we don’t no one will listen to us, and you can imagine what will happen then.” The fear amongst the separatist leaders then, as it is indeed now, is that the rebellion will become armed, and that will lead Kashmir and of course India to a situation far worse than the dark days of the early 1990’s.

Three highly significant shifts have taken place in the last few weeks. And this is major by any standards applied to conflict zones.


One, these columns had earlier noted the increasing attendance of local masses in funerals of militants. Till even two years ago such funerals barely drew a crowd. Now in the past weeks, the shift has the masses from not just affected, but also the neighbouring areas, gathering for the funeral of any person killed by the forces in an encounter, or a clash in above the waist firing. But increasingly so the masses are also emerging from their homes to prevent the encounters from taking place, walking determinedly to the spot in a bid to rescue the militants—usually locals now—with the government forces finding it difficult to cope. This is happening repeatedly, even as the spate of ‘encounters’ increase along with the increasing ‘search operations’ launched by the Army.

Two, students have taken over the protests all across the state. Young school children, including girls in large numbers, have taken over literally, clashing with the armed police and the Army, throwing stones, being injured or killed, and yet continuing the fierce demonstrations. This was not so earlier with the stone pelters young adults, with only a few young teenagers visible in the protesting crowds. Now young school students are in the lead, or active participants in direct clashes with the armed government forces. The defiance and the absence of fear for their own lives is the part of the new, more lethal resistance that is building—or indeed has been built—in Kashmir in the absence of even a minimalist ‘reach out’ strategy by the ruling political powers.

Three, as the photographs attached to this article show, the young militants are appearing without masks as such funerals to give a ‘gun salute’ to their fallen comrades. Sources said that militants are now largely local, with the Kashmir protests acquiring a local resistance hue.

Retired Army generals with experience in Kashmir have been writing about the need for a dialogue. The apprehension in the forces is of the return to a situation where the political masters sit back, and actually preside over a direct confrontation between the people and the Army, a situation that most democracies would like to avoid. The Army in India has never been happy about such situations, and even during counter insurgency operations in Kashmir in the 1990s the push was always to get the political leadership to take over control of the areas cleared by the troops. A senior General, now retired and close to the current dispensation in Delhi, told this writer earlier of how necessary dialogue was, and how essential for the political governments to take ownership of the state “instead of leaving management to the Army.” He has not repeated these words in recent months. But others have, with some generals being attacked mercilessly by right wing trolls for even suggesting dialogue.

It is clear that the BJP government is clinging on the sledgehammer as the only approach in its strategic bag. The Opposition knows this, and is making some tentative moves to come together on the issue of Kashmir. The Congress that had completely dropped the idea of the talks—started initially by former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee with all sections of Kashmiris—has set up a panel to explore the resumption under Dr Manmohan Singh. Others are in talks with the Congress, including BJP leader Yashwant Sinha who has been insisting on talks as the only option. However, it remains to be seen where this effort goes, as many involved, are still hesitant and tentative about their own position on the border state.

If the Opposition steps in it will have to carry its intervention to its logical conclusion, as a start-finish operation will add to the alienation and the despondency in the Valley. It will make it apparent that even the Opposition parties have no strategy for talks, and are not prepared to think out of the box in dealing with the state that is now literally in the throes of what many young people there believe, a ‘do or die’ battle.

(Photographs AASIF SHAHI: 4 armed militants offer a gun salute to slain militant Fayaz Ahmed Ashwar alias Setha from Reshipora Qaimoh in Kulgam district of South Kashmir.)http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/4/10652/Kashmir-Fast-Turning-Into-a–Do-or-Die-Zone-3-New-Indicators